“What were you doing when the first plane crashed on September 11, 2001?”
We’ve been inundated by this question in the last month or so, with good reason, of course. There are some things that should not — can not — be forgotten. “We will never forget” are words etched in a prominent memorial at Dachau, the concentration camp in Germany I visited a little more than a decade before 9-11-2001.
I’ve been listening intently to the stories but haven’t shared any of my own until now. Even though this will be posted a day after the ten-year anniversary of this horrific event, I am writing on September 11, 2011. And it feels right to reflect on where I was that day, especially on the Mama Mondays version of Peace Garden Mama. After all, what I was doing that day most of all…was being a mother.
We were about midway through growing our family at the time. We had an older son, who was in kindergarten, and two little girls. On that historic morning, I was home with the little girls, folding laundry in the living room, watching the Today Show as usual. Katie Couric was the first person to alert me that something was amiss. I watched with her and the rest of the world as an airplane crashed into one of the World Trade Center buildings, and like most, thought it was a horrible accident. When a second crash followed, and a third, and a fourth, my mothering went into full gear. Namely, I went numb. The last thing I wanted was to scare my girls. I called my husband throughout the day trying to process the news with another adult. I met with my weekly faith-sharing group and did my best to make sense of what had happened with the other mothers through the eyes of faith. Mostly, we exchanged a confused mess of feelings and thoughts and reveled in community — the fact that we could gather and talk in a safe environment. A prominent theme was how we could best mother our children through this disaster.
I also remember the world stopping, if only in my mind. Those children’s stories I was trying to write — did that really matter? It seemed sort of pointless in light of something so far-reaching. I felt confused as to what I should be focusing on.
And then I made a decision that I never would have made pre-motherhood. I canceled a trip to the Oregon coast to see a good friend marry. The wedding was scheduled the weekend of my oldest daughter’s fourth birthday. I was already feeling conflicted about going. 911 sealed the deal for me. My friend was disappointment and I, too, was torn about the decision, but my mother-heart could not push past the fear of another attack happening and permanently separating me from my family. It was too fresh, there were too many unknowns. And I learned that sometimes the decisions of a mother feeling protective over her children are not entirely logical. And that’s okay. I’ll always regret not being there, but at the same time, I have yet to regret staying back to be there for my daughter’s birthday. It’s a loss I’ve lived with and I know that if the scenario were to be repeated, I’d likely do the same all over again.
|Olivia turns 4 with a princess cake (but no mother in sight)|
Unfortunately, I came down with a vicious infection the morning of her party and ended up having to abandon it and all of the activities I’d planned to spend time in the emergency room. All the adults there — family and friends — pitched in to make the party a success in my absence.
|Babysitter and her mother zip up girls for post-party jaunt|
|Grandma Bev helping with birthday beading project – Oct. 2001|
|Dad gets in on the action, while baby sister looks on – Oct. 2001|
Despite those setbacks, despite that feeling that the world had stopped and of being uncertain which direction to go, slowly, we all moved forward, processed some more, and began to live again with some measure of confidence and purpose. I continued working on my children’s story and eventually, it was published, followed by another. I have continued writing and mothering and reaching for faith. There have been many blessings and sorrows. Life has taken on more vivid meaning on many different levels.
|Baby sister Beth reading a book upside-down – Oct. 2001|
Mostly when I think back on 911, I recall strong feelings of realizing that everything I was experiencing was happening through the lens of someone fully entrenched in motherhood. It wasn’t as much about me as my children. In some strange way, 911 revealed to me what kind of a mother I was; one whose heart was firmly and forever entangled with that of her children’s.
|December 2001 – our “After 911” days ensue|
Q4U: Where were you that day?